March 22nd, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - The first 90-minute practice session for this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix has been completed, and finished with Mark Webber fastest, ahead of last week's winner Kimi Raikkonen and reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel.
Conditions in Malaysia are hot, with air temperature of 31 degrees centigrade and track temperature 37 degrees. Humidity was at 51% in FP1. The heat and humidity make this a tough race weekend for everyone involved, but particularly for the drivers, who have to perform at a high level in quite extreme cockpit conditions. Fernando Alonso could be seen in the Ferrari garage, cooling his face with a wet towel, showing just how warm it is at the track.
As usual, Free Practice 1 was run on only the prime tyres, which in Malaysia are the orange-marked hard compound Pirellis. The drivers all completed early installation laps and then the track went quiet as the engineers checked the cars for any problems and made any initial setup changes that were required. It was 35 minutes into the session before a timed lap was completed, which surprised BBC technical expert Gary Anderson, who expected to see the teams make better use of their limited track time given the lack of in-season testing allowed.
The first driver to set a time was Marussia's Max Chilton. His initial benchmark of 1:42.513 was just a second slower than his own fastest time of the session, but some way off the ultimate pace of 1:36.935, which was set by Mark Webber with 37 minutes remaining in the session.
In today's FP1 session, there was quite a lot of high fuel running, presumably because the high temperatures raise questions about the durability of the tyres. For most teams, tyre management proved a challenge, with the left front and left rear tyres in particular wearing heavily in the high-speed right-hand corners. Slow-motion replays in the television broadcast showed graining on the surface of the tyres, and the drivers were complaining to their teams of high wear. Such heavy wear on the prime tyres does not bode well for the medium compound option tyres, which will be seen for the first time in FP2.
The form-book after the first session is much as expected: Red Bull, Lotus, Ferrari and Mercedes are all looking competitive. Force India have already shown that their strong result in Melbourne last week was no fluke, with Sutil and Di Resta both in the top ten of this morning's session. Williams seem to have taken a small step forward, and will be aiming to get closer to the top ten as the weekend progresses. McLaren are still over a second off the pace, but completed plenty of running and will have collected a lot of data to use in their development process.
Results of Free Practice 1:
|1||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:36.935||15|
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:37.104||0.169||21|
|6||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:37.769||0.834||17|
|8||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:37.773||0.838||15|
|19||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:40.728||3.793||17|